Objectives: Changes in intestinal transit rate are also implicated in the etiology of many colonic diseases and strongly influence many metabolic processes in the colon. We set out to investigate whether intestinal transit time could influence the activity of the hydrogen-consuming bacterial flora and sulfate metabolism.
Methods: Normal volunteers underwent four interventions while taking a low-sulfate diet: placebo, sulfate supplements, or sulfate supplements with either senna or loperamide. Stools were cultured and analyzed for sulfate, sulfide, methionine, sulfate reduction rates, methionine reduction rates, acetic acid production rates, methane production rates, short-chain fatty acids, and bile acids. Urine was analyzed for sulfate.
Results: The addition of sulfate alone increased fecal and urinary excretion of sulfate, fecal sulfide, sulfate reduction rates, and acetic acid production rates; it reduced fecal methanogenic bacterial concentrations. Faster intestinal transit increased fecal sulfate, sulfide, bile acids, the reduction rates of sulfate, and methionine and the production rates of acetic acid. Reduction in fecal methanogens and methane production was seen. The reverse effects were seen with loperamide.
Conclusions: Both sulfate supplements and changes in intestinal transit rate markedly alter the activity of the colonic bacterial flora with respect to sulfate metabolism and hydrogen disposal. Dietary influences on intestinal transit and sulfate consumption may influence disease processes. While a variety of processes govern sulfate metabolism and hydrogen disposal, our knowledge is far from complete. How far the observed changes in sulfate metabolism seen in certain diseases are relevant to the pathogenesis of the disease or secondary to the disease itself is unclear.